- Privately held Gritstone Oncology has licensed lipid nanoparticle delivery technology from Arbutus Biopharma Corp. to support future clinical development of the cancer company's lead immunotherapy program.
- Under the agreement, Gritsone will pay Arbutus an undisclosed upfront sum, along with milestone payments and potential royalties if any of its drugs ever make it to market. Gritstone will also reimburse Arbutus for providing manufacturing support for its product candidates.
- "Successful exploratory preclinical work with Arbutus fueled a strong bilateral desire to formalize and extend our relationship," Gritstone CEO Andrew Allen said in a statement. The biotech expects to advance a personalized neoantigen immunotherapy into the clinic in mid-2018.
While the potential of RNA-based medicines has fueled interest and investment for years, drug delivery challenges have hampered the successful development of a potential medicine.
Enzymes in the blood can break down nucleic-acid based therapeutics quickly, neutering a drug before it can reach the relevant target.
One solution has been to enclose a therapeutic in a lipid nanoparticle to protect nucleic acid strands from degradation. Arbutus' delivery platform does exactly that, and was convincingly validated by the Phase 3 success of Alnylam Therapeutics Inc.'s patisiran, which incorporates Arbutus' technology.
"The recent phase III validation of Arbutus’ LNP platform makes them the natural partner for Gritstone as we drive our proprietary two-component immunotherapy program into the clinic in mid-2018," Allen noted.
Gritstone's pipeline is currently preclinical. But as the biotech looks to move into the clinic, securing a capable delivery platform is crucial for conducting human trials. The deal with Arbutus should help Gritstone optimize its immunotherapy and manufacture product candidates.